fus·​tian ˈfəs-chən How to pronounce fustian (audio)
: a strong cotton and linen fabric
: a class of cotton fabrics usually having a pile face and twill weave
: high-flown or affected writing or speech
broadly : anything high-flown or affected in style
fustian adjective

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Fustian first entered English in the 13th century, by way of Anglo-French, as a term for a kind of fabric. (Its ultimate Latin source is probably the word fustis, meaning "tree trunk.") Several centuries into use as a noun and an attributive noun, fustian spread beyond textiles to describe pretentious writing or speech. Christopher Marlowe was a pioneer in the word's semantic expansion: in his 16th-century play Doctor Faustus, he employs the word in this new way when the student Wagner says, "Let thy left eye be diametarily [sic] fixed upon my right heel, with quasi vestigiis nostris insistere," and the clown replies, "God forgive me, he speaks Dutch fustian." And later, the titular doctor himself is called "Dr. Fustian" repeatedly by a horse dealer—an apt misnomer considering the Doctor's speech habits.

Examples of fustian in a Sentence

a speech awash in old-fashioned fustian and bereft of all substance
Recent Examples on the Web Freed of the architectural fustian of the Frick’s Gilded Age home, the art breathes anew, each painting in its own world rather than entwined with others as part of a decorative ensemble. Philip Kennicott, Washington Post, 6 June 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'fustian.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English, from Anglo-French fustian, fustayn, from Medieval Latin fustaneum, probably from fustis tree trunk, from Latin, stick, cudgel

First Known Use

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of fustian was in the 13th century


Dictionary Entries Near fustian

Cite this Entry

“Fustian.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fustian. Accessed 1 Dec. 2023.

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